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Fear of Music: Why People Get Rothko But Don't Get Stockhausen

3.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  72 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
Examines the parallel histories of modern art and modern music and examines why one is embraced and understood and the other ignored, derided or regarded with bewilderment, as noisy, random nonsense perpetrated by, and listened to by the inexplicably crazed.
Paperback, 135 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by John Hunt Publishing
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Tim Pendry
This was an interesting but ultimately disappointing book. It purports to explain why ‘people get Rothko but don’t get Stockhausen (that is, why crowds worship at the great gallery sanctuaries of modern art but do not listen to modern music).

In fact, it is a fairly unsophisticated polemic from a journalist that, in the end, rather fails to do much more than whimper about the current state of affairs.

Yet at times, like all good journalism, I found it hard to put the book down and it was only whe
Jun 07, 2014 Irene rated it it was ok
Great title, very attractive subject. Sadly, the execution didn't live up to either of these. By the end I'd gained (or been reminded of) lots of reference points to go and look up in my own time, but very little sense that Stubbs had answered the question he posed in the book's subtitle. Also, and it may seem like a small quibble, whoever proofread the book (assuming anyone did) needs to be shot.
Sep 20, 2015 Ugh rated it really liked it
Despite being subtitled "Why people get Rothko but don't get Stockhausen", Fear of Music doesn't actually address the question of "why modern [read: avant garde] art is embraced and understood while modern [as above] music is ignored, derided or regarded with bewilderment as noisy, random nonsense perpetrated and listened to by the inexplicably crazed", as the blurb puts it, until its conclusion - a mere 26 pages out of 137. Rather, the first 111 pages set out the parallel histories of the two b ...more
Jul 02, 2012 Paul rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, but the proof-reader was asleep I think when he nodded it through, which is a wee bit frustrating getting pulled up by strange punctuation and split sentences.
He acknowledges at the outset that the book doesn't purport to be a comprehensive catalogue of modern/ experimental music. The chapter on early 20th century modern classical music got me tracking down some music I hadn't come across before, eg Xenakis, but the later chapters used far weaker examples, going on a bit ab
May 09, 2013 Ben rated it it was ok
I can never be entirely decisive on these star ratings; two or three stars? The author does make some points, but in the end he neither seems to have really addressed the issue posed in the title, and some points are severely under-explored.

At 137 pages, "Fear of Music" feels like either an essay that's been padded, or a full length book that hasn't been developed. He's clearly coming from the music end of things (as am I) and sometimes writes a sort of primer on new and avant garde music trends
Dec 14, 2012 C.reider rated it it was ok
The best thing about this book is the title and the question it poses. Sadly the book doesn't really make but a cursory effort toward answering this intriguing question.

The book starts off nicely enough, setting up the reader to expect an exploration of cultural attitudes about music and art, and instead most of the book is wasted on a stunted rehashing of the history of avant-garde music, with a very biased view of the more recent developments in countercultural sound (punk: GOOD / prog: BAD).
Mark Winkelmann
Sep 11, 2014 Mark Winkelmann rated it liked it
Main points are interesting but its a decent article padded out with a lot of musical history which while well written and interesting doesn't do much if anything to advance the debate. You could read the intro and concluding chapters and have extracted the music vs art debate.

Terrible amount of typos too.

Sep 27, 2015 Herb rated it it was ok
Like a lot of books that purport to tell WHY something happens, this one just reports that things DO happen. &, I'm sorry to say, in this book David Stubbs doesn't even do that very well.

His understanding of art history is limited (as an example, the dynamic between photography and painting is a lot more complex than Stubbs claims) and a lot of his music references are not much deeper. A comparison of the general reception of contemporary visual art and contemporary music deserves more thou
Alex Delogu
Jul 02, 2013 Alex Delogu rated it liked it
A lively engagement with the history of music. The big let down is that it doesn't really tackle the thesis set up on the cover. It doesn't really explain why difficult music is less accessible than difficult art. There are few points in the concluding chapter that are worth exploring in greater depth, like the lack of an original and music and the consequent difficulty of monetization of music. Overall an interesting read. Avoid if you're already well versed in modern music history.
Jun 02, 2009 Domitori rated it did not like it
A book of misplaced commas. A book in desperate need of an editor or anyone with a pair of functioning eyes and rudimentary knowledge of grammar and syntax. A book with ridiculous premise and lack of coherent argument to support it. Instead of argument, what we get is Wikipedia-style Cliff Notes on the history of modern music and modern art.

Do read this instead:

David Hall
Jan 07, 2010 David Hall rated it it was ok
Shelves: music
I found some interesting anecdotes and made a few musical discoveries in the 'Fear of Music', yet it takes forever to get to the core of his argument. The writing isn't very focused and he ends up wondering from tale to tale, although he does have a light and fluid style. In the end, Stubbs never comes up with a satisfactory or convincing argument and I was left wondering what it was all about. Frustrating.
Simon Sweetman
Mar 26, 2013 Simon Sweetman rated it really liked it
A really great wee book, this. A thoughtful look at how experimental art is often praised, has all but become its own mainstream where the musical version has buried itself in the underground, seeking refuge in the shadows
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David Stubbs is a British journalist and author, covering music, film, TV and sport.

He co-founded the magazine Monitor while at Oxford University in the early 1980s, along with Simon Reynolds, Chris Scott and Paul Oldfield. In 1986, following a stint as the world’s worst trainee chartered accountant and having rather pompously vowed he would never write for the music press in its its current falle
More about David Stubbs...

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